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[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] Published on Sunday, February 16, 2003 by the Chicago Tribune Many Moderate Churches Take Up Anti-War Cause Ministers identify perils in conflict by Dahleen Glanton and V. Dion Haynes Borrowing a theme from the old black spiritual, "Ain't Gonna Study War No More," Rev. Cecil Murray stood in the pulpit at First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles and warned the 17,000-member congregation recently of the evils of going to war against Iraq. Using his platform to protest war was an unusual move for Murray, pastor of one of the nation's largest black churches. But he and many other ministers who oppose going to war with Iraq think that America is experiencing difficult times that call for extraordinary action. "We are the seeds of conscience," Murray said in an interview. "The church must be prophetic or it will be pathetic. There is a movement, we are taking a stand, and I think it will grow as we get closer to possible confrontation." Across the country, religious leaders from many prominent denominations are using their pulpits to spread a message to millions of churchgoers that the war President Bush is threatening is not only unwarranted but is a violation of God's law. The reaction in other churches, synagogues, mosques and houses of worship has been diverse. In the past, many Catholic, Episcopalian and United Methodist leaders have been less vocal in espousing their views before a war begins. This time, they have taken a commanding lead, stepping to the forefront in a unified effort to bring attention to what they say are religious perils of conflict with a Muslim nation. In recent months, churches have organized petition drives and ministers have voiced anti-war sentiment in televised sermons and taken out newspaper ads. They have also used Bible classes to explain the church's position on Bush's push for a pre-emptive attack on Iraq. In January, the National Council of Churches, along with a coalition of anti-war civic and religious groups, began running a television ad with Bishop Melvin Talbert, the United Methodists' top ecumenical official, aimed at raising the profile of its anti-war movement. No longer silent "The middle church is becoming as active as the religious right has been for the last 15 to 20 years," said Bob Edgar, general secretary of the Washington-based church council. "We have had a huge change in strategy. Until now, the middle and left had not used computers, there were no full-page ads or phone campaigns against policy. But everybody knows that to break through the maze of modern media, sermons have to be preached in new ways," he added. The council, consisting of 36 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican denominations, was denied a meeting with Bush, said Edgar, a former congressman from Pennsylvania. But delegations have met with church leaders in France and with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. A meeting is scheduled next month with Russian President Vladimir Putin. "It took organized religion 10 years to oppose the Vietnam War. During that time, people were thought to be un-American if they stood up against the war," Edgar said. "Now it is considered very American for the church to stand up. The idea of a pre-emptive strike that does not have broad multi-national support seems strange to many religious leaders." Top-ranking officials in several denominations have issued written directives laying out their stance on the war and urging churches to get involved. For the most part, religious leaders said, only a few churches are pacifist. Most Protestant and Roman Catholic churches base their position on a just war theory, in which there must be an external act by a belligerent nation and the effect of civilian casualties must be considered. While that was present 12 years ago, when Iraq had occupied Kuwait, it is not present today, the leaders said. "People have been quick to point out the injustice of going to war at this time," said Rev. Michael Baxter, a theologian at the University of Notre Dame who recently spent three weeks in Iraq, where he said there are almost a million Christians. "If there is any aggression this time, many people feel it is on the part of America." Issue creates a rift On the other side of the issue is the Southern Baptist Convention, which has urged its 16 million members of the generally conservative fundamentalist group to write letters supporting Bush's policy. In some cases, the strong anti-war sentiment has created sharp divisions in the church, between those who support the war and those who do not. And the pastors are being caught in the middle. "I have people who support the president's initiative and would be willing for us to go to war today. And on the opposite side, there are people who are very much committed to doing whatever we can to prevent war from happening," said Rev. Michael Vandiver, pastor of Central United Methodist Church in Spartanburg, S.C. "It is a very meaningful time for the congregation, and most of them are willing to exchange dialogue without getting angry." In the Jewish community, though concerned for the loss of Iraqi lives, some rabbis preach that this war would be justified. "Judaism does not have a presumption of pacifism. It recognizes that there are wars that are obligatory, that must be fought, and clearly the Bible understands that human beings have the capacity to fight against evil," said Michael Siegel, senior rabbi at Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago. In general, he said, the congregation has been supportive, though some members have either disagreed or expressed displeasure with that stance. "Some of the most vociferous voices have come form people who have seen war firsthand and have spoken very passionately against the war in Iraq," the rabbi said. "Their feeling is that we need to exhaust every possibility to avoid a war, and certainly Jewish law begins with diplomacy in order to find peace. They question whether we have done that." Ghazi Khankan, director of interfaith and communication at the Islamic Center of Long Island, N.Y., said the mosque has tried to keep the spiritual and political activities separate. But the possible war is always on people's mind. "People are apprehensive," Khankan said. "They are worried about friends and family in the Middle East. He also said there is concern "that a war might add fuel to the anti-Muslim bias that is found in some quarters http://www.moharer.jeeran.com/ http://come.to/Al-Moharer http://al-moharer.freeservers.com/ http://clix.to/Moharer http://www.fortunecity.com/meltingpot/tonga/1105/ http://almoharer.cjb.net --------------------------------- Do you Yahoo!? Yahoo! Shopping - Send Flowers for Valentine's Day _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk